On the Pilgrim Way: Time to move?
As a child I was proud to have been born “pre-war” because my sisters always talked about “pre-war” as the golden time. However, those of us born shortly before the Second World War also went on – in many cases – to have severely disrupted childhoods. My husband, Kees, attended five different schools before he was eight and did not see his father for several years. A friend of mine was evacuated far away from her family – too far for many visits. I suspect that the fact we have lived in the same house for 49 years says something about Kees’ desire for stability after his early years of moving from place to place. The friend I referred to has lived in a house with her husband for even longer.
Now, my generation has to consider moving house (if not moving area) – not because of war but because of ageing. Kees and I are not quite there yet, but I watch with anxious yet keen interest as friends struggle to take big, life-changing decisions. One friend and local church elder has taken two years of careful exploration and weighing up the pros and cons to decide to move to a flat 25 miles away. There, she will be near the sea and no longer have the practical responsibilities for house and garden. Our oldest friends in the town, who are at the heart of our local church, know that their house and garden are becoming too much for their physical frailty. Their difficult decision is whether to move into a flat in the town or to a flat near their three children on the other side of the country.
As children, we had no say in what happened to us but now we have the burden of choice. I am tempted to wait until something happens which forces the issue. I can’t decide whether that is a trusting Christian approach or an irresponsible one. Photos of children being evacuated show them clutching a favourite teddy and perhaps a small suitcase. But we have gathered nearly 50 years’ worth of stuff. Our friends have been conscientiously sifting through their belongings for the past few years with a view to moving – sometime, somewhere. Their children will thank them; ours will not, as we have done nothing of the sort. We tell ourselves we are living in the present; is that trusting or irresponsible?
I watch all these friends with admiration as they face such radical change, but I am also filled with anxiety for our local church. I think of Abraham – who was called by God in his old age to go out not knowing where he was going – and I apply the story as much to our local church left behind as to those moving away. I am sad at the prospect of losing friends and have to remind myself they are not dying – only moving! The verse from Hebrews chapter 13 has a mournful ring for me at present: “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”
Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform
This article was published in the June 2016 edition of Reform.